Could your teen be experiencing suicidal thoughts? Here are 12 red flags to look out for

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'Thinking about ending one’s life (suicide ideation) on a frequent basis can lead to increased pre-occupation with suicidal thoughts, to the point where a detailed plan is put into action – also called a suicide attempt.'
'Thinking about ending one’s life (suicide ideation) on a frequent basis can lead to increased pre-occupation with suicidal thoughts, to the point where a detailed plan is put into action – also called a suicide attempt.'
  • One person completes suicide every 40 seconds, and for each suicide, at least 20 or more persons will attempt suicide
  • 17,6% of teens considered attempting suicide, while more than 20% of 18-year-olds had one or more suicide attempts. 


The global trend of suicide prevalence has changed over the past few decades. 

The suicide picture is said to have significantly swung the pendulum to the point where the age group of 15-29 years is at the highest risk of suicide.

Initially, the adult and elderly population were at higher risk, which was in line with the age-related stressors in these age groups, such as loss of employment, financial debt, divorce, illness, experiencing a growing number of losses, and the experience of loneliness.

However, transitioning into adolescence and then into early adulthood is typically accompanied by a number of challenges and adjustments, especially aggravated by the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Many of the challenges faced by the youth transgress into stress factors which, if allowed to escalate, can negatively impact an individual's mental health.

ALSO SEE | The warning signs of child abuse and how to respond

Reading the warning signs 

Below are 10 suicide warning signs to look out for, simplified using the mnemonic IS PATH WARM:

I – Ideation: Talking/asking about suicide content

S – Substance use: Substances can disinhibit protective impulses and serve as a means to escape the unbearable/painful thoughts

P – Purposelessness: Questioning meaning in life, including your purpose

A – Anxiety: Agitated and emotionally difficult 

T – Trapped: Feeling that this situation is inescapable

H – Hopelessness: Loss of purpose and meaning

W – Withdrawal: From family, friends, social and community activities, and previously engaged-in groups 

A – Anger: Rage, uncontrollable anger, vengefulness

R – Recklessness: Don’t care attitude, inconsiderate and reckless actions seemingly without cause 

M – Mood changes: Mood improves in a positive manner, happier, more agreeable, etc.

Lastly, the tell-tale warning signs are as follows:  

  • Significant changes in academic marks or uncharacteristic absenteeism from classes/lectures 
  • Uncharacteristic sharing, to the point of giving away precious possessions

Should you be experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the Suicide Crisis Line at 0800 567 567.

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